It is no secret that digital currencies have most definitely shaken up the way in which the world interacts with money and finance. Jihan Wu, the CEO of Bitmain, blogged; “[Bitcoin] essentially rolls gold, cash, and our credit card system into one. It takes the strengths of each and leaves the weaknesses behind. It has the limited supply quality of gold, but can be used to purchase everyday items. It has the speed of a credit card, but respects and protects your privacy. Transactions are settled instantly like cash, but are recorded on a public ledger”.
Bitcoin accessibility is a problem:
One of the biggest problems with digital currencies is that they are not that accessible, which makes it very difficult for new users to obtain any, or even know where to begin. Being able to buy even a small amount of Bitcoin can prove to be very difficult, especially if you have little knowledge and do not know where to start. You can of course set up a Coinbase account, relatively simply, but you have to link a credit card, or a bank account. But, once you have acquired your new Bitcoin, you then probably have no idea what to do with it. You face even more problems if you wish to buy larger amounts of Bitcoin. You have to go through different means and submit a number of different personal documents, fill in complicated forms, not to mention awaiting approval. You then need to consider which wallet they will use in order to store their currency. Purchasing altcoins is even more complicated! Should you wish to sell your digital currency after a while, you then face an even bigger mission. You will find that very few retailers actually accept Bitcoin, and even less is known about altcoins, so it is often near impossible to use your digital currency to purchase any direct products.
Is this about to change?
This could all be changing, as over the last couple of years, developers have been trying to rectify this situation. The first attempt was the creation of the Bitcoin ATM. It worked in a very similar way to traditional ATMs, where a user will insert some cash and receive a printed paper wallet that holds their new Bitcoin purchase. These do not come without problems though, and they are very expensive and are only suitable for areas with a lot of foot traffic, reliable internet access, and a sophisticated tech savvy user base. More recently, Bitcoin debit cards have been created, where users deposit Bitcoin in the debit card provider’s web wallet, and receive an ordinary looking Visa card. This can then be spent in normal shops, and the Bitcoin will be sold, converted into cash, and then sent to the retailer as payment. This fast transaction is completed quickly, as if you were just using an ordinary debit card.
Are Bitcoin debit cards the future?
Although more work needs to be done in making Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies more accessible to reach the full potential, the cryptocurrency debit cards are definitely a crucial first step. On top of this, a number of different industry leaders are working with the Blockchain Caucus in Congress, in order to standardise the regulations across the US, which will not only make more people aware of Bitcoin, but also easier to purchase, use and sell them.